Slade School of Fine Art

Slade School of Fine Art
Slade School of Fine Art

Slade School of Fine Art is a training school for artists established in 1871 as part of the University College of London. It is named after the art collector Felix Slade (1788–1868), who in his will endowed chairs of fine art at the universities of London, Oxford and Cambridge. At Oxford and Cambridge, the Slade professorships only included offering lectures to the general public (many of the distinguished art historians held the post), but in London (where Slade also won six scholarships) the college authorities added to his gift by voting money to finance a teaching institution providing practical instruction in painting and graphic art (and from 1893 sculpture). 

First professor

Sir Edward Poynter, 1871–185, was the first Slade professor. Poynter adopted the French method of working directly from the living model at an early stage and thus developed the tradition of outstanding draughtsmanship that came to characterise the Slade. It soon took over from the Royal Academy (where teaching was considered arid and academic) as the country’s leading art school. It had its finest time during Brown’s long professorship, which lasted from around 1895 until the outbreak of the First World War. 

After World War 2

After the war, the Royal College of Art began competing with the Slade in significance, and in the 1930s and 1940s, it went through a relatively quiet era under Schwabe, followed by a revival under Coldstream. He brought with him the influence of the Euston Road School and the kind of painting and drawing that relied on calculation and close observation. This was described as a specific characteristic of Slade painting, with the measuring marks left evident on the canvas in the work of artists such as Euan Uglow being seen as something of mannerism by the detractors. 

Distinguished Teachers

Besides the professors themselves, several other distinguished artists have taught at the Slade, including Philip Steer, who served in the staff from 1893 to 1930, and Reg Butler, who taught sculpture from 1951 to 1980. Lectures in art history were given for the first time in 1890, and Roger Fry was one of the leading critics and scholars to offer them. A course in film studies was established in 1960, and a professorship in the subject was established in 1967. In 1994, a centre was founded for electronic media. The school is still in its original site, part of the main building of the institution, constructed between 1827 and 189, but the extension was completed in 1995.


Oxford University Press. (2015). A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art.

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